The Best of Walt Disney World 2009 - Part 3

by Steve Russo, staff writer

This week, we’re back for the third and final installment of the “Best of Walt Disney World” for 2009. In Part One we took a look at the Best of Disney World resorts, attractions and shows. In Part Two, the focus was restaurants, food and dinner shows. In this closing segment we’ll finish up with some more food and drink. Ready?

Best Seafood Restaurant

OK, the Coral Reef is next door but you get the idea. Photo by Steve Russo.

  1. Coral Reef (24%)
  2. Flying Fish (15%)
  3. Fulton's Crab House (15%)

Personally, I’ve not tried the Coral Reef and the reports I’ve seen seem to vary significantly in their ratings. It must have something going for it to capture 24% of your votes so I guess I’ll need to try it. I can recall reading a recent article by Len Testa that summarized his recommendations for how far in advance you need to call for a Disney World restaurant reservation and the Coral Reef was, surprisingly to me, at the top of the list.

Also receiving your votes in this category are Cape May Buffet (presumably the Clam Bake Dinner Buffet), Narcoossee's, the Hollywood Brown Derby, Kona Café, Yorkshire County Fish Shop, Akershus, Captain Jack's, Crystal Palace, ‘Ohana, Teppan Edo, Victoria and Albert’s, Yakatori House, the Rose and Crown, and Raglan Road.

Best Wings

Strange category, huh? Wings are, more or less, pub food and I thought I’d list it to get your choices and maybe find another source to satisfy my craving. Only four places received your votes as follows:

The ESPN Club. Photo by Steve Russo.

  1. ESPN Club (55%)
  2. ‘Ohana (35%)
  3. (tie) Tambu Lounge and the Rainforest Café (5%)

Best Ice Cream

If you’ve ever read one of my trip reports, you realize that a Russo tradition (and a very important one at that) is at least once during each Disney trip, you may (must?) substitute ice cream for a meal. Yes, it’s just that important to me. Your choices…

  1. Beaches and Cream (33%)
  2. Aloha Isle (18%)
  3. Mickey's Premium Bar – any location (15%)

I’m getting that craving just reading the finalists. The rest of your votes were split among some favorite places like the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, Ghirardelli’s and Seashore Sweets; as well as some favorite items like Frozen Bananas, Oreo Ice Cream sandwiches and Cookies & Cream bars.

I probably should have reversed the order here but, instead, we’ll move from dessert to the entrée.

Best Steak

  1. LeCellier Steakhouse (53%)
  2. Yachtsman Steakhouse (19%)
  3. California Grill (9%)

I’ve eaten at all three of your top choices and I consider myself a bit of a steak connoisseur. I know that Le Cellier is extremely popular with the masses but I would have ranked it down the list quite a way. That is based on a so-so New York Strip Steak and a sub-par Prime Rib. I have not tried the Mushroom Filet that seems to be a favorite of many. Nevertheless, my opinion doesn’t matter (for this column anyway).

Also receiving votes were the Kona Café, Artist Point, Jiko – the Cooking Place, Bistro de Paris, Flying Fish, ‘Ohana, Saana, San Angel Inn, Shula's, Coral Reef and Teppan Edo.

Best Sushi

I know... "Yuck", right? Photo by Steve Russo.

This category received the fewest votes of any other, just ahead of the Best Vegetarian Restaurant. So, I’ve learned that you guys like meat, particularly steaks and burgers, but sushi… not so much.

  1. Kimonos Sushi Bar (Swan) (16%)
  2. Teppan Edo (16%)

What’s interesting is the next four choices tied for third place with each receiving 11% of the vote: California Grill, Wolfgang Puck’s, Yakatori House, and… “yuck”. Yes, that’s right… “yuck” received 11% of your vote. I would urge those of you that voted for “yuck”, and have never tried sushi (and I’m certain that at least a few of you fall into that category), give it a whirl. Start with something simple like a Spicy Tuna, Vegetable or California Roll—you might be pleasantly surprised.

Bringing up the rear, behind “yuck” (I’m never going to tire of this) is Benihana's, and the Kona Island Sushi Bar at the Polynesian. How demeaning it must be for a restaurant to finish behind “yuck” (I told you I’d never tire of it).

Best Sports Bar

I thought I’d be impressed if anyone knew one beyond the ESPN Club and, as usual, you came through with some great choices.

  1. ESPN Club (94%)
  2. (tie) Big River Grill and Brew Works, Victoria Falls Lounge, and Wide World of Sports Café (formerly the All Star Café) (2% each)

The ESPN Club was certainly the one most of us are familiar with but… I hadn’t even considered the Victoria Falls Lounge at the Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House. Once I saw the first vote come in, I remembered having a first-afternoon-of-the-trip beer there while watching a couple of NCAA football games. Great choice!

I also can recall having lunch at the (then) All Star Café, and enjoying it. In those days, we would visit the NFL Experience with our young son and spend some time punting, passing, kicking and running their obstacle course. It was a lot of fun and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen my wife attempting a 20-yard field goal. Unfortunately, we haven’t been back in probably eight or nine years. Has anyone been there more recently? Is the NFL Experience still operating?

Best Place for a Cocktail

It came in second, but the Rose and Crown serves a fine brew. Photo by Steve Russo.

One of the advantages of growing older (and there aren’t many) is taking those “adults only” trips to Disney World. One of my favorite things to do, at the end of a long hard park-touring day, is to sink into one of the soft-cushioned chairs or sofas at the Belle Vue Lounge and enjoy an adult beverage while I listen to Jack Benny or Amos ‘n’ Andy on one of their radios. We always find it a great place to rehash the day and plan the next one. Unfortunately, you gave my favorite place no love. Your choices are:

  1. California Grill (11%)
  2. (tie) Rose and Crown, Tambu Lounge (Polynesian), Victoria Falls Lounge (9%)
  3. World Showcase (7%)

As you can see, the voting here was tight. More than a few selected various spots around World Showcase to grab a drink, sit and people watch, so I lumped those votes together. By the way, most of those suggested a drink from the kiosk in France.

The remaining votes were spread far and wide and included:

  • Crockett's Tavern
  • Dawa Bar (a great place from which to watch Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade)
  • Downtown Disney Margarita Bar (I’m not familiar with this. Anyone?)
  • Jellyrolls
  • River Roost (the lounge at Port Orleans – Riverside)
  • Adventurer's Club (no sobbing here)
  • Todd English’s bluezoo
  • Hollywood Brown Derby
  • Café Rix
  • Catwalk Bar (now closed)
  • Crew's Cup Lounge
  • French Quarter Pool
  • Hurricane Hana's
  • Mexico
  • Outer Rim Lounge (now gone)
  • Raglan Road
  • Stone Crab Lounge
  • Territory Lounge
  • The Wave
  • By the pool
  • T-rex
  • Tune In Lounge
  • Uzima Springs

So many bars… so little time.

Best Coffee

I anxiously awaited your votes here. While it’s possible to get a good cup of coffee at Disney World, it ain’t easy. Most on-site establishments serve that nefarious coffee substitute, Nescafe. In my opinion, Nescafe is to coffee what Dr. Pepper is to a bocce ball. So where can one go for a good cup-o-joe at the World?

  1. Kona Café (47%)
  2. V&A (12%)
  3. Boma (7%)

Most of the Boma votes specifically address the use of a press pot. I’ve also had the French press coffee at Narcoossee’s and it was very good. The spots you liked also include:

  • None (Yep, a solid fourth place with 5% of the vote. Sort of reminds me of the “Yuck” entry for Best Sushi.)
  • Canada (I’m not sure if this means Le Cellier or the coffee kiosk on the World Showcase promenade)
  • Jiko
  • Joe Muggs (OK, I’m pretty sure there isn’t one at Disney World, is there?)
  • Kringla Bakery
  • Main Street Bakery
  • Nescafe (Seriously?)
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Sunshine Seasons
  • Trails End
  • World Showcase carts
  • Tim Horton's (ditto the Joe Muggs comment)
  • Fountainview Café (It used to be good but do they serve real coffee there any longer?)
  • Polynesian Concierge

Best Milkshake

  1. Beaches and Cream (26%)
  2. 50's Prime Time Café (23%)
  3. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (16%)

I’ve been to all three but have only had the shakes at Sci-Fi… and they’re very good and very thick. Your other choices include Ghirardelli's, Whispering Canyon Café, the Plaza Restaurant, Mrs. Pott's Cupboard, the Enchanted Grove, the Fountain (at the Dolphin), McDonald's, Min & Bill's Dockside Diner, and the Aloha Isle.

Best Muffins and Cookies

Hue G. Krazont. Get it? Photo by Steve Russo.

I get hungry just thinking about this one. Your choices are:

  1. Main Street Bakery (43%)
  2. (tie) Boardwalk Bakery and Starring Rolls Café (17%)
  3. Boulangerie Patisserie (4%)

All great choices. One of my favorite things to do is to grab a pastry and coffee from the Boulangerie Patisserie just before finding a spot for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.

Your other selections were Goofy's Candy Company, Kringla Bakeri og Café, the Caribbean Beach Resort Food Court, Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery, Mickey's Cookies at Riverside Mill, Pepper Market, Rice Krispie Treats (anywhere), Riverside Mill Food Court, Tusker House, Contemporary Concierge, Fountainview Café, and the Wilderness Lodge Concierge.

That wraps up the Best of 2009 selections. One last time… a hearty thanks to everyone who contributed. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to fill out a ballot and send it in.

Before I leave, several of you also sent in some additional categories for next time and I think they’re good ones. I’ll list them with my favorite to get you thinking.

  • Best Buffet: My first thought is Boma.
  • Best Dessert: I want to say Zebra Domes but there once was a Chocolate Lava Cake at the California Grill…
  • Best Single Food or Drink Item: I do miss the Beaver Tails but this has to be a Pineapple Dole Whip from Aloha Isle.
  • Best Entertainers at Epcot: Off Kilter and the Jammitors come to mind but my vote is for the British Invasion.
  • Best Mode of Transportation: The monorail, of course.

Assuming we do this again next year, I’ll add them to the list.

So what did you think? Was your choice the popular one? Did it make the list? Do you agree or disagree with the choices? Lastly, do you think it’s worth doing again next year? Let me know and thanks for playing.